Apr 23, 2020
By Gerry Hatherley, Volunteer at Muskoka Discovery Centre
The Peterborough Canoe Company was formed in 1892 and began production the following year after building a new factory complex at the corner of King and Water Streets. It was a successor of sorts to the Ontario Canoe Co., which had closed after its shop burned down in the spring of 1892. The OCC’s former President and Managing Director, Col. James Z. Rogers (1842-1909), soon took over management of the new business, and many former OCC employees also came on board. At this time, Peterborough Canoes had about 50 workers, making it a relatively large operation.
In the early years, the company built cedar-strip canoes (including sailing models), skiffs and even some motor launches. These sold well not only in Canada, but also in England and Europe. After Rogers’ death, his son and Secretary-Treasurer W.A. Richardson took over management of the company, with the Richardson family remaining in control of the business until the end. PCC was the most successful of the many canoe builders that operated in the Peterborough area, and during the 1910s and 1920s it acquired or merged with many of its rivals (though separate brand names were usually maintained).
The period after WWII was a challenging one. Sales of wooden boats went into a decline due to competition from metal and fiberglass vessels, but PCC countered by expanding their line to include runabouts and other outboards (mainly in the 14-18 ft range). These sold well during the boating boom of the 1950s, but the era of wooden boats was coming to an end, and Peterborough Canoes was eventually forced to close down in 1961. But over half a century later, its name still lives on and its iconic canoes are highly valued by collectors.
Gerry Hatherley is a researcher and writer for the Archives at Muskoka Steamships and Discovery Centre. His main focus has been on the vintage boat builders of Muskoka. Gerry lives in Gravenhurst, ON, and has deep family roots in the region.
This article is the CYOB’s sixth in a series of articles and photos. The series is nine at the moment but Gerry is working on another six or seven. Other articles in the series include:
We thank the ACBS Toronto’s Classic Boat Connection.